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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/662

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Clotaire, in 593, was a clause that a man, accused of theft, should be adjudged guilty of it if he was burned in the trial by fire. In 630 King Dagobert, in reforming the laws of the Bavarians, the Alemans, and the Ripuarians, according to Christian ideas, continued in effect the law of the Ripuarians providing that, if any one was cited before a court to answer for an offense by his servant, he should be adjudged guilty if the hand of his servant was hurt by the fire. In 819 Louis le Débonnaire ordained that a servant, who was burned in the trial by boiling water, should be put to death. Hincmar relates that Queen Thietberge, wife of King Lothair, when accused of a horrible offense, proved her innocence by a man who underwent for her in 860 the trial by boiling water without being scalded. In 876, Louis, second son of Louis the German, established his rights over Germany, which his uncle, Charles the Bald, contested, by means of thirty men, ten of whom suffered the trial by cold water, ten that of hot water, and ten that of red-hot iron. Charles the Bald, not willing to give up to these proofs, marched against his nephew at the head of an army, and was thoroughly beaten. It would be superfluous to multiply examples of this kind, which became more and more numerous till the end of the eleventh century, when the trials were formally condemned by Popes Stephen V, Celestine III, Innocent III, and Honorius III.

We pass on to the description of the general course of proceeding: Trial by hot water was made simply by plunging the arm into a boiler full of boiling water, to take out from it a ring, or a nail, or a stone, which had been suspended in it. In some causes the hand was put in to the wrist, in others to the elbow. It is even said, in the formulas of Saint Dunstan, that the stone was sometimes concealed under an ell-deep of hot water. Commoners made the trial for themselves, while people of quality hired others to make them. Those who were burned were declared guilty, and those who escaped were considered innocent.

The trial with hot iron, called judgment by fire, was made in different ways. Sometimes one red-hot iron was taken hold of—or perhaps several in succession—and was carried to a considerable distance. The iron was generally shaped like a plowshare, and was, therefore, called Vomer. A second way was to walk upon red-hot irons with the legs bare to the knee. Six, nine, or twelve irons were made ready for the trial, according to the magnitude of the inputed offense. In Denmark a kind of red-hot iron glove, reaching to the elbow, was used.

The trials were made in the presence of priests delegated by the bishop, and of secular officers of justice. Those who submitted to them were obliged first to wash their hands, arms, or feet, with fresh water, to remove any advantages they might have obtained from rubbing their limbs with some substance that could deaden the action of